Some day in the future when people who pay close attention to the government bureaucracy and high-placed regulators within it are asked to think of a high-ranking official who was consumer-friendly and unabashedly activist, the name of Ray LaHood might come to mind for many of them.
LaHood, who announced earlier this week that he will be stepping down from his position as U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary after serving nearly four years at the helm, will be leaving behind a safety-oriented legacy that even his critics openly acknowledge.
As far as Cabinet officials are concerned, LaHood kept up a comparatively high profile throughout his tenure, advocating consistently for more safety in the transportation industry. He lent his name and efforts to enhanced safety rules in the airline industry, the building of better roads and bridges, tighter oversight of dangerous bus companies, new proposals aimed at curbing truck accidents, and campaigns spotlighting the nation's obsession with technical gadgets and exposing the dangers that distracted driving poses.
LaHood, 67, says he will stay at his post until a new person is nominated and confirmed. A long-time friend of President Obama from Illinois, LaHood was a relative rarity -- an ex-Republican member of Congress occupying a Cabinet seat in a Democratic administration.
A former transportation secretary says LaHood's "signature issue," and what he will likely be best remembered for, is his close and non-stop involvement with efforts aimed at reducing motor vehicle accidents and roadway fatalities through grater curbs on distracted driving.
Says LaHood: "I think safety is what I'll be remembered for."
Source: USA TODAY, "Transportation Secretary LaHood to leave office," Bart Jansen, Jan. 29, 2013
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